Sustained in the Wilderness
Hungry is a powerful state. It changes our mood, physically weakens us, causes us to be tired, and throws off our mental capacity.
Reading: Exodus 16
In this story, we see that the Israelites are in physical need. They’re hungry – so hungry in fact, that we find them wishing themselves back into the bondage of which they were just freed as they said to Moses, ‘…Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’
This chapter clearly identifies for us that the Israelites were hungry, so much so that their rationale was gone. Did you read what they said to Moses? They said it was better to live a life of a fed slave then experience hunger pangs in freedom. Interesting, isn’t it? God not only just freed this group of people from 400 years of Egyptian slavery – but He saved them from Pharaoh’s army through the miraculous Red Sea crossing. Two astounding miracles performed by the God of creation just for them, yet, they wanted to go back to the exact place they were saved from because – they were hungry…I’ve had hunger pangs, they make me angry…but I can’t say I’d wish my way into slavery just to have a full belly – would I – would we?
During this time, the Israelites were living in a wilderness. Wilderness is defined as an, ‘uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable region.’ I don’t know about you, but I’ve not physically spent time in a place like this, however, this definition lends itself to situations I have experienced in its resemblance of an emotional state I have found myself. That place felt barbaric, abandoned, and unwelcoming and ashamedly I tell you that just as the Israelites in their wilderness – I too found myself frustrated wondering, ‘When on Earth is God going to show up?’ And, ‘WHY, OH why am I walking through such an unnavigable place?’ Sound familiar?
We have all experienced this type of emotional wilderness and end up just like the Israelites in our longing for a place of familiarity from the past no matter the state of that place. BUT God, by His grace desires to sustains us just as He chose to sustain the Israelites. You see, He has this path laid out for us, and the path He has planned leads us to our own ‘Land of Promise.’ The journey He takes us on – from one point to the other often times takes us through unfamiliar seemingly difficult terrain, a place where there is a forced reliance on Him. A path where if we are willing, we find that just as He provided the quail, water, and manna to sustain the Israelites, He will sustain us. No, our substance will likely not come as food to consume, rather it will be in the form of moments. These moments will be the sustaining substance by which God will give us the ability to press on taking each step forward in his plan.
What will these moments of provision look like?
They will take the shape of encouraging words of a stranger, the physical shoulder of the friend to cry on, the well-intentioned family member that prods you ahead, the wise council of a pastor who instructs/corrects, and the promise laid out through the word God has spoken. It is in each of these and their perfect orchestration that the plan of God comes to fruition. They push us through serving as nourishment, giving us the ability to press onward as we follow God’s plan.
I wonder today – where do you find yourself?
Are you like the Israelite sitting there in a frustration and hungry for direction?
Have you too considered it better to live life as a fed slave rather than to experience hunger pangs in freedom?
If that’s you, I encourage you to read this chapter through one more time. Take comfort in the fact that God did provide (even in the disobedience and imperfection of His people), and His provision was enough to get them through as they took life one day at a time relying not on themselves and their own ability, but on the hand of God and His ability.
Maybe the frustration you experience is grounded in your battle of decision. Do you go back to your place of familiarity (the place God desires to take you out of) –or– do you allow yourself to come into reliance on Him going where it is He is leads and trusting the path He’s placed you on? Let me help you with that decision today, by encouraging you to allow God to sustain you, let Him satisfy your need while drawing you to freedom. The Israelites did, and yes, there were times of disobedience on their path where they didn’t follow it, but our God is longsuffering, graceful, and merciful, and after 40 years held true to His promise, by leading them to theirs. His word promises that the place He beckons is far better than the bondage you crave.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
God is a perfect gentleman He provides us ample instruction in His word telling us over, and over again – He will sustain us (in fact it is His desire, and intention), yet leaves the decision to trust Him completely up to us, and that initial step toward Him and the freedom He promises requires us to – Choose Him.